From IndieWeb

Notifications was a session at IndieWebCamp NYC 2018.

Notes archived from: https://etherpad.indieweb.org/notifications

Video: tbd

IndieWebCamp NYC 2018
Session: notifications
When: 2018-09-28 16:55



dmitshur shows some work he has been doing on notifications.

Shows web UI for GitHub notifications.

  • settings for choosing what to be notified about
  • the github.com/notifications page showing all the issues he is being notified about.
    • notifications grouped by github repository

Shows his own site at: dmitri.shuralyov.com

Looking for input on future implementations.

  • wants to add Twitter, but feels like they aren't too important because they don't represent work that he might need to do.
  • current system shows notifications until he clicks through - once it is marked read he can't get it to show up again.
    • proposal: add a drag and drop area to drop notifications that he wants to read later.
    • proposal: different UI for mobile, where he might not be able to take an action on a given notification and wants to see it later.

Tiara: i only get notifications for texts and phone calls. Doesn't want notifications for email.

  • sometimes misses messages, and a thread is marked as having unread messages. has to scroll through the list of threads to find the one with unreads.

Leigh: things that i want to know about in real time. Things that are pressing.

  • is in a lot of Slack channels but only has notifications on for a few
    • can depend on the situation, e.g. waiting on a package.
  • wonders about GitHub flow and compares to JIRA in terms of setting priorities, status, ...
    • dmitshur: github has some project management tools like this, which could be useful.

Tiara: you can search email by keywords. could you do a keyword search on text messages - only give notifications / alerts for messages that match those keywords, overriding default notifications.

  • compares to the emergency notifications (e.g. amber alerts, flash floods) which make a loud noise and vibration.
  • David Shanske - search by keyword comes from email. notifications are supposed to be small and ephemeral, but making them more like email is making them big and involved.
  • or a count-by-time? i got 10 messages from someone in 5 minutes, so i should get a notification.


  • notifications can be about things you need to know about, transactionally. but sometimes they're just judges to get you back to a platform like Slack or FB.

dmitshur: problem is volume. if you get 2 notifications / wk it doesn't matter how noisy they are. as you get more notifications it becomes overwhelming.

  • Leigh: eventually you spend all your time answering notifications.

David Shanske What are you comfortable not knowing?

  • dmitshur: if someone comments on my blog, i want to get notified because that's rare! a comment on a github issue may be more common.

Marty McGuire: I get notifications whenever I get a webmention. Some sites send out mentions whenever *they* get a comment on *their* posts. So if they post about me, and someone comments on that post, I can get many notifications. Maybe I should cluster these?

  • Leigh: you can possibly learn interesting things from those notifications. Popular person taking an interest in you or the topic, for example.


  • Netflix has a notifications section that often announces things the algorithm thinks you might like.
    • would prefer only notifications about e.g. new seasons of a show he follows
    • Leigh it's a nudge to get you back in the app!
  • how annoyed do we get being notified about something you already know?
    • Marty McGuire - i often turn off notifications unless i am very interruptible. i usually let phone calls through for urgent things.
    • dmitshur - phone call is urgent, but is just another kind of notifications.

dmitshur: What can we do about these notifications / interruptions taking up too much of our time and attention?

  • Leigh - blog posts about questions to ask and things to be aware of.
    • e.g. transactional notifications vs nudging notifications
  • Tiara - this fits in with issues with blue lights in the environment that keep you awake.
  • martymcguire: see also https://calmtech.com/ Calm Technology
    • also brings up phantom notification syndrome.
    • Leigh - it becomes a kind of ADD, causes you to lose focus on something you might be working on, even if there's no actual interruption.

Leigh: there are dependencies to think about. If you get a notification about something that you're expected to then respond to or deliver down the line, it's important to get that notification so you're not the logjam in a process.

dmitshur: maybe notifications' only job is to alert you and then go away?

  • Leigh - notification may not be enough info. if something is "done" but you have to dive deep and spend time to figure out that it wasn't actually done, you've lost a lot of time.

dmitshur: email started this way, or is the same way. we (used to) get notified of all arriving emails

  • Leigh - we also had a world before email! with meetings and face-to-face interactions. dmitshur: a tap on the shoulder is a notification!

dmitshur: also related to ads

  • Leigh - nudge notifications are absolutely related to ads.

Marty McGuire: i see lots of work about this from the "intelligent agents" community.

  • they build agents that take in feeds, news sources, etc., and create rules about when to get notifications. e.g. "raining in your zip code tomorrow" or "lots of tweets about earthquake and california", or "marvel movie trailer" in new youtube titles
  • difference is where control is by default. most systems we have now are crude (let NY Times notify you at all), but the control over what content is in a given channel is on the publisher side.
  • https://github.com/huginn/huginn

See Also